As the mindfulness miniseries keeps winding down the road to wellness, let’s pause to ask one simple question: what are we learning? It’s incredible how small changes today can lead to big transformations tomorrow, but we can get deep into our heads when we’re faced with self-improvement or self-care. Being honest about what we need is very different from the effortless way we take care of people around us, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible!
One major challenge is that we tend to take on everything at once. We binge, we marathon, and we get it done! So when you find out what you need, it can be tempting to roll up your sleeves and take a flying leap into the thick of it all. But it’s important to build a base, so let’s talk about grounding. Not mental grounding, more like something you can see every day: grounding wires.
Why are literal grounding wires so important? Well, they can protect you, your appliances, and your home from surges of electricity caused by lightning strikes or power surges. While it can be tempting to tackle all our challenges in one go, if we neglect our metaphorical grounding wires, there’s a chance a surprise lightning strike or an unprecedented power surge could ruin all that work and even hurt! Here are five quick and easy things you can do today to help you cultivate your metaphorical grounding wires.
Ask: “What do I need right now?”
Goals are an excellent way to have something to work toward, but we also need to listen to what our minds and bodies need along the way. If you feel yourself getting overwhelmed or frustrated, take a second to ask one simple question: What do I need right now? What you need right now could be a nap, a walk, some time with friends (or some time away from them). This has nothing to do with being productive. It has everything to do with you and can help you avoid burnout.
Feel what you feel.
You asked yourself what you need, but this one is about how you feel. Are you frustrated by a setback? Feel it. Are you excited by some good news? Feel it! It’s OK to feel everything you’re feeling, no matter what it is. When you give yourself room to feel, you can answer the question up there at #1 more easily, and give yourself space to figure out your next step.
Celebrate all the small things.
It can’t be all work and no play. Recognize your milestones along the way and celebrate them! Treat yourself to something nice, like a night with friends or family, a date night with yourself and/or your partner, or even a day under the blanket with a furry friend and a whole lot of Netflix. Our work will always be there, so try and treat yourself along the way!
If you’re feeling froggy, hop to some exercise. Whether you’re going low impact with walking, swimming, or hiking or high impact by hitting the weights or the bag or dusting off those running shoes, get on up! Even taking a few minutes to dance to your favorite song can have a lasting impact throughout the day. When we move our bodies, our brains release lots of good stuff like serotonin and dopamine. It’s not just a state of mind, it’s science!
(Re)design your narrative.
Have you ever made a mistake and called yourself “stupid” or chided yourself because you “should have known better”? If you have, it’s nothing to be ashamed of (see #2), but our narratives shape our days from moment to moment. How we talk to ourselves in times of loss or triumph is more powerful than you realize. In fact, it’s a whole neural situation that can quite literally rewire our brains. If we see ourselves as “stupid” we’re less likely to seek out what we need and more likely to miss opportunities for growth or even happiness. If you’re calling yourself names or putting yourself down, it may be time to start shifting that narrative so you don’t shut down yourself or your feelings. That mistake you “should have known better” about can instead become a moment of self-care: “I’ll try again later,” “It’s OK to make mistakes,” or “I’ll see what I can do next time.”
Each of these choices takes minutes, but over time, those minutes add up. They can build into something greater, something more exciting. We can shape our worlds—the mornings that greet us and the evenings that leave us. It takes time. And just because we commit to these mindful practices doesn’t mean bad things just stop or that we’ll feel better overnight. We’re buying ourselves more time and giving ourselves more tools for when lightning strikes.